05 Friday Aug 2016
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As try as I might, my two adult daughters just have not upheld many of the traditions of my family. These traditions I have carefully stood sentry over for decades. I thought it was my responsibility to not only uphold them, but also ensure succeeding generations respected them. Carefully, I taught my daughters certain customs.
Well . . . .
My daughters don’t do many of these things, nor appreciate them. I don’t understand how things that have been important for generations can be so glibly diminished. These things have stood the test of time, looked forward to by children and adults for decades and have given the family respect and reverence. My daughters just cast them aside.
One of the reasons I did not move sooner to a city I have acclaimed for 40 years was because I thought I had to live close by my daughters according to family tradition. And so I did.
Well, my world got rocked when one of my daughters seriously entertained accepting a position in a far- away state. She did not even ask me how I felt about her considering such a move! After that, I began mulling over moving myself. There was no way I was going to follow her and her family, including my grandkids, to a state that I don’t care for.
It was about this time that I had an amazing experience in front of my very own picture window in the living room of my yellow cottage that many of you have been to.
You see, the sun was starting to set. For many years I would watch it set from that window because it reminded me of watching the sun set with my mother. It is one of only a few warm memories I have of her, a woman worn to shreds from heart disease that would kill her at age 46. Our childhood home faced west and had a big picture window also. My mother would call me and say, “Come watch the sun set with me.” She would often tell me that her boss in Denver before I was born, Mr. Jonas of Jonas Firs, would say to her “Rose, come watch the sun set with me.” (The Jonas Building still stands at 10th and Broadway.)
So there I was watching from my window the sun set earlier this year, 2016. All of a sudden I heard a voice in my ear – no, not my mother’s voice – but, the voice of her mother, my grandmother Elizabeth, the matriarch of our family when I was growing up. She said very clearly to me, “Honey, don’t worry about holding up those traditions. It is OK.”
What a relief came over me. It felt like a weight had been lifted from my shoulders.
Since then, life with my daughters has been much easier. I think they sense the lightening of my spirit and the not judging them. Although I never chided them for not doing certain things, I am sure they knew anyway.
The letting-go-of-upholding-traditions message has been reinforced for me recently by several authors. One of them stated that traditions are often a means of being self-righteous – of course that is the way to do it! and arrogant – of course, that is the only way to do it! and controlling – of course, you will do it my way. Wow — self-righteous, arrogant and control were never traits I associated with family traditions, but I know see how they can be.
Another writer, Jhumpa Lahiri, the author of “The Lowland,” showed how traditions had stifled this one young Indian woman, who came to this country in the 1960s. My new book club had quite a discussion about traditions and how they sometimes could throttle dreams and hopes and aspirations.
I love many of the traditions that have been handed down to me and I plan to continue to sustain them. I’m just not going to get mentally bent out of shape when my daughters do different things. They and my grandchildren have a right to their own lives.
Copyright – Elizabeth J. Wheeler, August 5, 2016